Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Bread Alone

"What is the most basic article of faith? That this is not all we are." - Leoben Conroy, Battlestar Galactica (tweet this!)

Painfully hungry and completely alone in the desert wilderness, a man starving to death is reminded that he is surrounded by bread. Satan, the Accuser, told Jesus explicitly that his own painful suffering was unnecessary - that Jesus himself had the power to alleviate his own pain. When you are at your weakest, have you ever neglected to take medicine or some other remedy? Have you ever denied yourself something which you could acquire easily?
And yet, that is exactly what Christ did. Instead of saying, "Oh yeah, I totally forgot I could do that!", he answered simply with this incredible truth: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Jesus did not come into the desert to feast on stone-bread; he came in obedience to the Holy Spirit so that God would be glorified by his example of reliance.

There is a hunger that goes deeper than food, a thirst that water alone can never quench. Humankind has a myriad of religions, philosophies, causes, and ideas that are meant to imbue its members with a sense of purpose in their lives. It is no coincidence that Rick Warren found such success in his most famous work "The Purpose-Driven Life." Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our inmost beings long for a reason to exist. The question is, when we are spiritually hungry, what do we fill our spirits with? What will we seek in those times when we feel that hunger so deeply?

It can be all too easy to get "target fixation" on our physical needs. We imagine we would be happier with more money, better gadgets, or the latest fashion. When we get a few minutes to ourselves, we spend them worrying, or planning, trying to get control. We completely fail to recognize that God is in control, and we exchange the spiritual blessing of trust and reliance on God for the comfort of fooling ourselves into thinking that we are in charge of our own lives.

I always imagine that Christ must have remembered this hunger when he fed the 5,000, or when he spoke these words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7):
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (5:6)
"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (6:26)

Here is a statement that will either fill you with great comfort or great dread: You are not in control of your own life. You may think you've planned it out perfectly, that there's no way you'd ever lose your job, get buried in debt, need to live off the generosity of relatives, or even lose your family. There is literally no way you could control any of those things completely. You can make the best decisions, live the most upright moral life, vote for all the recommended candidates, and develop good relationships with all the most powerful people in your workplace, and still, you would not be in complete control.

For those in the world, this is cause for great distress. For we who are in Christ, it is great comfort because while we believe that we are not in control, we also believe that God is. If you are currently living a life of abundance, it is not the result of your own effort alone, but the providence of God as well. If you are going through a period of great personal (or physical) suffering, that suffering has a purpose. It is not because God hates you, or because He's indifferent to you any more than He was indifferent to the pains of His own Son starving in the desert.

He wants us to rely on Him for our every need, to count on Him as we would a good friend, and know that whatever happens to us in this life, He is with us. Do you feel His presence as you deal with difficult situations? If not, pray. Reach out to the One who can help you, who has been through suffering on earth himself and knows what it is like to be a human. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

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